The Sandhills Community College basketball team surrendered a nine-point second half lead and was defeated 90-82 by Brookdale CC in the NJCAA Division III Championship game on Saturday in Herkimer, NY.
A dunk in transition by Bryan Quiller gave the Flyers a 58-49 lead with just over 15 minutes remaining in the game that they were unable to hold. The Jersey Blues caught up at 64-64 and then outscored the Flyers 16-6 over the next five minutes to take a commanding 80-70 lead.
Quiller scored a team-high 21 points in the final game of his three-year Flyers career. Freshman Jamori McDougald, who helped the Flyers get off to the strong start with 12 first half points, finished with 14 to go along with a game-high 10 assists and four steals. Sophomore guard Kevin Mateo led the winners with 31 points and was named the tournament MVP.
Coach Mike Apple’s No. 1 ranked, and No. 1 seeded squad, had its 18-game winning streak snapped, finishing the season with a record of 30-4. Brookdale, located in Middletown, NJ, won its 17th consecutive game and improved to 30-3.
“I give Brookdale all the credit in the world for the way they played in the second half,” Apple said by phone later. “They hit timely shots and we didn’t, and we committed some costly turnovers.
“We just didn’t seem to have the same energy we had in the first half. The thing you have to do to win a national championship is to finish and we didn’t finish.”
The Flyers led 36-32 with 3:30 remaining in the first half when a jumper by McDougald set off a 9-2 run that opened up an 11-point lead the Jersey Blues cut to 45-38 at the intermission. The Flyers expanded the lead to nine points in the second half before being outscored 41-24 over the final 15 minutes of the game.
Sophomore Jaquan Thurman with 14 points, and sophomores LeNijel Robinson and Jordan Coleman with 10 each, were the other scoring leaders for the Flyers.
The Flyers, who finished the season with the highest field goal percentage in Division III at 53.5 per cent, made only 41.5 per cent of their shots in the title game and were only 5-for-23 on three-point attempts.
McDougald and Robinson were named to the all-tournament team. The Flyers were denied in their bid for the basketball program’s third national title. Brookdale’s also won a national title in 2013.
“Not many teams get to play on the last day of the season,” Apple said. “It was a fantastic season and I’m really proud of our guys for competing at the level they did this year.”
An average of about 60 Flyers fans watched the NJCAA Network broadcasts of the three national tournament games in the Clement Dining Room at The Dempsey Student Center.
~Written by C. Bergmann/Sandhills Community College.
~Photo by Donna Ford.